It’s that time of year again! Toward the end of April and throughout the month of May each year baby skunks are born. Normally, the public doesn’t see these babies until they are fully furred and capable of following Mom out of the den at night to go out foraging for bugs. There are a couple of different circumstances that cause orphaned babies that are in need of intervention.
- Mom was hit by a car or is otherwise deceased. Usually when an adult skunk is hit by a car or a victim of some other trauma, the residents in the area are very aware of it.
- Mom was trapped or killed by a homeowner on purpose and the babies were not discovered until AFTER she was relocated or killed.
Once you have determined that Mom is no longer caring for these babies, it’s time to come up with a plan to approach and catch them to get them to a rehabber. ALL skunks, no matter how small, CAN spray and WILL do so when scared or cornered. Depending on how old babies are, you need to be concerned about BOTH ENDS of the skunk when trying to approach them. They will BITE and they will SPRAY. How hard they will try to spray or bite depends on the age of the baby and how freaked out they are. Slow and steady wins the race with skunks. When approaching, do not run at them or ‘swoop’ down on them. The simplest way to ‘catch’ baby skunks is with a cardboard box or laundry basket. (Make sure the laundry basket has a slats in it that are small enough that the babies can’t escape) Go outside to where the babies are, approaching very slowly and quietly. The babies will probably retreat into the hole when you approach, and that’s okay. Be prepared though for an angry Momma to pop out. If she does – GET OUT OF THERE. She will NOT be happy about you finding the den site, and she will warn you before spraying. HEED her warning! If you still don’t see Mom, sit down or kneel on the ground about 6 foot away from the den opening, and wait for babies to come to check you out. Older babies will come out pretty quickly, while the smaller kits will take a while to get brave enough to come out. You may have to wait a while but if you wait, then try to approach after they are out playing/sniffing, they will go back in the hole the second you come back toward them.
It’s better to wait them out. If the babies do NOT retreat into the den hole when you approach, you can ‘call’ them to one spot by digging at the ground with your fingers, as though you are scratching at the dirt. Babies should see/hear you digging at the dirt and approach you, allowing you to place the box or laundry basket over them. Once you have them in the box or basket, please call the hotline immediately to get babies to a rehabber.
If you decide that you must handle them yourself, you can do so with leather or rubber gloves that they cannot bite through. Skunks are rabies vector species and are one of the two species that often test positive for the disease in our area. Even if you are SURE that these are not sick babies (and you cannot truly be sure) if you get bit by a skunk, that baby legally must be euthanized and tested for rabies no matter what. For your sake, and the babies sake – you MUST NOT GET BIT! If you do, it means shots for you, and death for the skunk. Please be careful, or let a rehabber handle it. You can always call the hotline to speak with someone who can assist you – 24 hours a day.